Starbucks appears to be serious about remedying the underlying problem revealed by the unwarranted arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia store earlier this month — at least serious enough that its response so far is being praised by African American racial justice leaders.
Wednesday, the coffee giant released more details about its response to what it called “the reprehensible event.”
Along with the note that closing all 8,000 U.S. stores on May 29 for racial bias training is just a first step, the company released in the the names of three people who make up an advisory panel it has formed to help design the training.
That panel, officially called the Starbucks Advisory Committee, is made up of:
- Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative
- Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Heather McGhee, president of Demos
All three are considered experts in the racial justice field, and all three are themselves black. Though calls to boycott Starbucks have died down somewhat, there’s still a lot of anger toward the company throughout communities of color across the country and globe.
The stigma associated with the brand right now is still strong enough that Ifill, Stephenson and McGhee felt the need to issue a joint statement explaining why they, as leaders in the African American community, decided to attach their names to this effort and help the embattled organization.
Reasons they agreed to participate include:
- Starbucks agreed to their insistence that this must be a longterm effort extending beyond May 29
- They made clear to Starbucks that its thorough review of policies must include local as well as national leaders, and the company agreed
- They see the magnitude of Starbucks’ response as novel, considering plenty of companies have the same problem
- The report they expect to issue with recommendations — for policies, a multi-phase training framework and other ongoing actions — can become a model for other companies
- Beyond just acting as a model, they think Starbucks can use its leverage to influence other corporations and police departments
On Twitter, McGhee added that trying to ignore the problem or blame it on one company is foolish. “This is an American problem, as old as we are,” she wrote. “The spotlight is on corporate America now.”